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The Art of “UX Street Play”

UX Planet — Medium | Gokul Rangarajan Photograph by Vaithiyanathan S

Convincing the business owners to adapt User Research in effective way

As a kid i loved Sura Samhaaram- the street play which is enacted during the festival months of October — November in a tribute to execution of “Padmasura”. In the festival season full of celebration, fasting, devotion, carnival music dance which ends with Soorasamharam’s Street theater.’s climax .The Play starts 10 days earlier to the last day with Surapadman’s effigy travelling across the street in chariot trying to scare away people with his monstrous structure , tongue out, thrones and head nodding horizontally. aAt the end of 10th day, Disciples of Muruga negotiates with Padmasura and his 2 sidekicks (who are real men in asuras disguise & usually come drunk to the party making fun of the people around along with Muruga) and finally Teenager kills them off in 10th attempt .

In Sura Samhaaram the underlying concept was to convey that a mighty powerful yet unruly ruthless ruler Padmasura can be slayed by the slender looking fun loving teenager Muruga and theshole act is depicted in most stylish way. Street Theater comes under the category of folk street plays which is always made as a ritual to watch, not just for its entertainment aspects but for the important message. I found it one of the few art forms which can show and convey the message as well as which gets into the mind of the viewer and make them believe in it . It has this conviction and charismatic ability to catch eyes as well as make them remember of an unfamiliar message. The whole concept of Street theater art was evolved into a tool to emancipate the working class and reinforce revolution against the established power. Let me take you through similar scenarios in which an important message has to be convinced to important people in corporate environment:

Resistance for User Research in Product Teams

Coming back to our Product Development world where the demand for UX is already peeking yet there is a always of “NO NO” for User research. “Research” is still considered to be lab oriented and nerdy exercises which is tell not part of Building process in most of the companies. UX for building great products is only possible when you truly practice empathy, True Customer empathy is possible only when a designer and product owners understand what the users do, think, feel, and say. This helps you narrow down on what to build as well as identify how people are using the product and what truly are their needs and this may also give the context in which your can or may product might scale in future. The Resistance is so great you need a revolution against the established powers. Hear are few kind of resistance one may find against user research and how can one UX designer possibly overcome it in a most stylish way.


Photograph by Vaithiyanathan S

UX /UI designers responsibility is always considered to a process of making the interface look good or making it usable. But for building great products will require a UX designer and product owner talking to user, shadowing them Identifying their need and problem patterns across user segments and making them into requirements. In other words the designer has to be in a position where he co-create a requirement or a user story based on user needs and not assumptions or feature request from some random person. Designer need to having an holistic understanding of the product which actually paves way to a software which actually talks to a customer by itself.


Photograph by Vaithiyanathan S

Especially when you are in a startup or in an agile environment “Time” becomes crucial factor, The time spent for user research is considered as time waste since there is no “tangible” short time end result out of it. Its high time business understands “Product Vision” is more important than end deliverable of the day for itself to sustain in the market for a longer run, you should read Don’t Build Something Just Because You Can by Ram for more insights on this

Return of Investment

Photograph by Vaithiyanathan S

Research is assumed as costly activity and very tech oriented which most of the business thinks can be replaced with gut feeling what we have. You don’t actually need the HI -End usability lab setup, to do a research all you need is a wall, a room, a laptop or a desktop and few free tools. For identifying patterns just few hours of talking to 5–6 end users of each segment would be more than enough . For a usability testing maybe you have to spend a little bit on the users compensation for the time for which also the time saved due on the development process can equated. Especially if you are building B2B enterprise products there will be a lot of user who would love to get their problems rectified and contribute more sensible suggestions to shape the product as well as step up for testing.

Doesn’t fit anywhere in Cycle

Photograph by Vaithiyanathan S

The Delivery people always find research post development or testing activity which happens after the product is built, since they find it fit anywhere in the agile cycle. Ideally Research has to be top and bottom of the Design agile process where it helps teams decide on what to build as well as test on the product which has been built.

Even if the business ideology is stubborn, i strongly believe its responsibility of “UX” designer to talk in the language of the business and convince of the process owners which is going to benefit them actually good for the business as well as the users. So the business resistance towards a ideology may not changer over so you have to consistently put effort ton your side using various tools to make theme believe this is good for them .

How do one convince them of all the above factors in a more effective and entertaining way ?

The answer is “UX Street Play”

Photograph by Vaithiyanathan S

If you are not able to win a person in an argument in certain environment like one on one meetings or a meeting room create an environment which actually facilities your voice being heard. UX Play was first written by Me, in alliance with Keshav Soni and Arun Raj for a college event to Educate college kids on what’s research aspect in design. This was performed by Madrasters group for Saastra Kumbakonam students.Since it worked out too good in college we adapted the idea in our office and few startup and business conferences to evangelize the importance of research, and it has been working in a spectacular way for both business and for the institutions.

Exposition : Resources Needed

Photograph by Vaithiyanathan S

Environment : Any stage or a space minimum of 500 sq-feet
Just 5 People: Narrator, Designer, Product Owner , Developers, Tester, End user
An Application Cardboard
Mike ( if its a larger crowd)
Audio System and , a laptop or Mp3 player


Photo by Artist six . Performers from left Sesha, Arun , Yeshwanth, Jack

The Plot is simple, to convince the business the play enacts current situation its after effect and what the solutions to it.
Act > Conflict > Downfall > Makeover > Raise of the hero > Climax

Myself Gokul Rangarajan , Photograph by Artist six

Initial Act
Introduction of characters and Narrator.
Company which is trying to build a product build out of assumptions and not so clear vision of a product owners ego

Humorous chaotic conflict raises between the teams and the finally product is launched

The product when used by users gets trashed by them fails terribly, huge financial loss.

Product owner calls in team and designer to fix the problem ,

Raise of the hero
Designer steps ups and explains about the UX research process and explains how its easy and less time consuming to actually get the most of the benefit out of it, he also talks about the long time return on investment for UX. The product Owner accepts it and the process of user Interviews, Contextual inquiry are enacted along with user

Arun and Prob Performing User InterviewArun and Prob Performing Contextual Inquiry

Finally the redesigned product is launched and the user is very happy about it and the product has longer stable market growth and every one in the company is happy


Even if a person or the audience does not believes in the ideology of UX at all the play ends with a huge applause for its entertaining aspect.
I can list some tangible benefits form your UX team enacting this play

  • Confidence to the team
  • Expression of what one had to say in a most polite and sophisticated way
  • Audience gets to know the other perspective of when we think
  • A wild card reentry to research

this the audience don’t realize the fact they have learned to accept research as part of the development process, valued its important, they have also been primed about the methodologies in UX, they are also in align with the concept of Empathy. The Initial act and the conflict part of the play is to connect with the audience’s day to day office life and enact their problem in a funny way for a PM or Dev or a tester , the downfall part of the play put a realistic yet horrific truth on the path their business model is built up. Finally the Climax is relief and yet tell the success outcome of the Research.

Shuel, Srinivasna dn Gilbert performing UX play in Rage

In the Performing Arts the emotions are provoked in performers, who then receive reactions from the audience in a impetuous manner. You don’t have to be trained actor to perform in this play any enthusiastic interested folks can join and this can very well be an interactive question and answers play. I am sure by performing this a team of UX designer would be able to shout aloud that what they are really capable of and what wonders they can really do to turn the product to really build the one which the users are expecting and thus the spreading the love and the concept of empathy

Suhel perfoming Stakholder Interview with his team

Here is a sample on how we did it

Each time we I perform this play with new team it’s usually strangers whom i rehearsal for 10 to 15 mins before the play and go to enact, Improvisations of the play to On-spot play dialog are very common at the end of each play i rewrite the play which is been improvised by the participants themselves . I found out this art form is platform for you to express the dialog which you like to say rather than following a book , co created by actor participants come naturally since they are playing the role of themselves or the ones they know,The long time inner rant is coming out and i am again taken to Surasamharam era where the Drunk disciples rant in public. The Expression of thoughts is very important for creative person i would love to perform this play across globe and involving multiple teams all the time and rewrite it again and again

We would also like to share the script to you soon


The Art of “UX Street Play” was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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